Hope is the most powerful tool you can use during challenging or uncertain times. Take a look at five ways to use it to your advantage, every day.
Has there ever been a time when hope was more essential to the human race?
When we experience setbacks, uncertainty or encounter obstacles, hope is the vital ingredient we need to help us recover both psychologically and emotionally.
Hope is the most fundamental element we can occupy to empower us and to support us to remain committed to our goals. I believe it is the most powerful driver we have available for human achievement. We bear witness to this almost every day.
If you have lost your way to hope, know that hope never loses its way back to you. Unlike denial, hope does not distort reality. Hope recognises difficulty and understands that effort is required to overcome challenges. Some might say hope requires too much mental effort. But difficulty alone is not something that should be rejected.
One way to keep hope alive is by guarding our hearts. We have all felt hope, we have either possessed it or were possessed by it. Yet inevitably discomfort came, and with it distress or disappointment. Our hearts became incrementally closed, because that is how we learnt to protect ourselves. But to thrive, we need to live with an open heart. We need to learn the balancing act of protecting ourselves but not at the expense of living our best life.
“There is no medicine like hope, no incentive so great, and no tonic so powerful as expectation of something tomorrow.” – Orison Swett Marden
Below is a 5-step plan to help us boost and/or reignite hope from within.
1. Hear Hope
What is your inside voice telling you? I am not talking about the volume of your voice but your internal thought processes. If we are to begin this journey of hope, we need to surround ourselves with voices of hope. Because who you listen to will determine whom you become.
What voices are you listening to on social media, YouTube or the news? Are they voices of hope or despair, optimism, or cynicism? One thing we need to remember is the news is highly incentivised to make us feel like the world is falling apart. The more doom and gloom, the higher the ratings. Hence, we need to guard our hearts and our ears from voices that are trying to manipulate us.
Caroline Caldwell said, “In a society that profits from your self-doubt, liking yourself is a rebellious act.” But to be this rebel you must fortify yourself with positive voices. Why? Because you are facing a well-resourced adversary and you need to be vigilant.
Billions of dollars are being spent every day to make you think you are not good enough without more followers, a cool pair of shoes or a squad that looks like a Bieber music video. Remember, the adversary you must deal with is exploiting your insecurity for their profit!
Our cup isn’t full because we don’t hear enough hope. Seek out positive and hopeful voices to keep your cup full and lacking nothing.
2. See Hope
“Hope literally opens us up and removes the blinders of fear and despair and allows us to see the big picture, thus allowing us to become creative and have belief in a better future.” Dr Barbara Fredrickson
To increase the odds of success, it is vital we remain future-focused. Our eyes need to be on the prize, reaching for those things in front of us. Those who live in the past are often weighed down by regret or memories of past negative experiences and those who dwell in the present give in to short term pleasures and temptations. But seeing the future gives us the strength to sacrifice present distractions to fulfil future ambitions.
It stands to reason that small sacrifices will solve small singular problems, but large sacrifices could potentially solve a vast array of complex problems all at the same time. We have seen first-hand the sacrifices our Olympians have had to make on the road to Tokyo. Those sacrifices would have seemed extremely challenging in the moment but in the long term yielded better results.
Applying yourself to the discipline of school might interrupt Fortnite binges or unlimited scrolling and skimming at all hours of the night. But sacrificing those temporary satisfying behaviours could yield massive dividends. They could even enable you to support your family in the future.
Making these types of sacrifices could potentially increase your earning capacity, thereby saving you from the struggle of not being able to provide for those you love. Sacrifices are necessary to improve the future and can only be seen through the eyes of future-oriented people.
Those who lack vision become blind and are more prone to getting lost. When you get clearer, you go faster. See a future drenched in hope and once you see it you will be unhampered by distractions.
3. Speak Hope
“Hope has a proven powerful predictor of outcome in every study we’ve done so far.” – Dr Charles R. Snyder
Are the words you speak hopeful?
Do they boost your spirits, raise your confidence, help you tackle problems with a positive frame of mind and enable you to cope with challenges? Or are they harsh and unhelpful?
We can choose to make a concerted effort about the words we choose to use regarding the situation we are facing and circumstances we find ourselves in.
If you want to grow weeds in a garden, the best thing for you to do is nothing! Weeds grow without any attention on your part; they are automatic responses to the culture in your garden. Have you ever seen a house overrun with weeds? We instinctively recognise the owner was inattentive.
Planting a tree in your garden takes a decision. You must consciously decide to dig a hole, fertilise and water.
Speaking hope requires similar hard work. You must first make the decision to be positive. Once you make the choice and start paying constant attention, it will become automatic.
The most miserable place to be trapped in is not inside a covid-19 lockdown but inside a negative mindset. This thought strategy is not about brainwashing yourself or living in denial but a clinical way of managing strong emotions by choosing to tell yourself to speak hope.
4. Practise Hope
“If you can’t fly then run, if you can’t run then walk, if you can’t walk then crawl, but whatever you do you have to keep moving forward.”—Martin Luther King Jr.
When you hear hope, see hope, and speak hope the next logical step is to practise hope each day. Create a routine or include it in your morning or evening rituals to amplify its effects. Action is important: It is rare for anyone to think their way into a new way of acting – we must rather act our way into a new way of thinking and being.
You don’t have to have something new or to do something different. Use what you have. We live in a throwaway society; we throw aside and disregard so much of our greatness. We say to ourselves, “I used this practice last week, I can’t do it again.” But not only can you do it again. You can do it better. Change comes from doing something again and again with consistency.
Write down two things that give you hope, it could be a sunrise, the pursuit of a passion, the laughter of a child, music, or art or connecting with someone close to you. We can all find something to light the flame of hope and keep it burning.
There is a you who you haven’t met yet! A stronger you, a wiser you and a more focused you. A you who steps into the reality of your best life… and the key to unlocking that is practising hope.
5. Traffic Hope
“When the unthinkable happens, the lighthouse is hope. Once we choose hope, everything is possible.” — Christopher Reeve
The last and most important step is to traffic hope. You need to be a carrier and light up the lives of people around you. Thousands of candles can be lit from the fire of one. Hope cannot be decreased by being shared; it is only intensified.
The reason we should all be concerned with our ability to increase hope in our lives is so those close to us don’t suffer any more senselessly than they need to. This isn’t some self-help dogma or idle rhetoric. If we don’t learn to organise our emotional barometers, not only will we pay for it in a big way but so will the people around us.
Every time we leave a room, we are leaving behind an emotional wake. Will yours be an afterglow or an aftermath?
Once we aim ourselves towards hope, the world will reconfigure itself around our aim.
We hear a lot of talk today about influencers, but you cannot influence people if you are judging them. The only way to influence people is by loving them. If you love people, you will get through to them. They should sense your love for them and when they do it affirms your legitimacy and authenticates your ability to lead.
As Napoléon Bonaparte said, “A leader is a dealer in hope.”
Lastly, get some skin in the game, invest heavily in hope and watch as dark skies turn to blue. I’ve tried being hopeless… it made me irritable and a critic rather than a contributor. I’ve also had plenty of reasons to be hopeless, from living with an incurable disease to experiencing family breakdown to dreams lost.
But I have set my eyes on hope and will continue to do so, for we can only thrive in a state of hopefulness.